In a previous post, I recounted the long history our family had of camping as our children grew up, and noted with some satisfaction that Son #2 had carried on the family tradition by buying his own pop-up camper. Now, Son #1 has followed suit with his own pop-up camper! And started his own camping blog, kazadventures.com, which is a great read.
All of which got me thinking. What is it about “camping,” in whatever form, even “camping” (such as it is) at Fort Wilderness, that holds this lasting quality? There are the obvious attributes: it’s a break from “real life,” it’s an encounter with nature (even if it’s only fishing in a pond or digging up worms), it’s family time (including time with the dogs). It’s sometimes just a chance to be uninhibited–we would ride our bikes around the campground in various fighter jet formations: finger-four, to single echelon, to diamond, and then, when someone was ready to stop, we’d buzz our own campsite in “missing man” formation. In any place but a campground, acting like that would get you a visit from DFACS. And, frankly, one main motivation for us was that camping is affordable; the overwhelming majority of our camping trips consisted of a 50-mile hop up to the Corps campgrounds at Lake Lanier. Twenty bucks for a weekend and we had an instant “vacation.”
But one other thing comes to mind, something that was true then but even more so in today’s world. Camping provides a chance to disconnect from one set of experiences and reconnect with others, more basic and, in today’s world, less virtual. Sometimes the reconnection is trivial, sometimes it’s deeply spiritual, and sometimes it’s both at the same time. Camping dispels the myth of “quality time.” Often life’s best and most memorable experiences don’t arise from highly organized, regimented, mandatory fun-drills; they occur spontaneously when you’re just goofing around doing not much. On one son’s first backpacking trip, we stopped for a break to take off our boots and give our feet a rest, and he looked up at me and said, in a way that only an eight-year-old can, “Dad, have you ever noticed how great it feels to take off your socks?” In a sense that’s the mission of a camping trip: a chance to get away and spend time, so to speak, taking off your socks.
Three sets of the family campers are scheduled for a link-up at Land Between the Lakes NRA over the weekend of May 14-17. (Daughter and her crew are tied up that weekend, but there will be others for that branch of the family.) So, with four Little Darlings, ages 2 to 5, in three adjacent campsites, the virtue of camping continues on.